Hollande and Merkel comfort debt ridden EU

Hollande and Merkel comfort debt ridden EU

Hollande and Merkel comfort debt ridden EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Francois Hollande brief the media during a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin on May 15. AFP Photo

New French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin May 15 and acknowledged their differing opinions over how to boost growth in Europe, but pledged to forge a joint approach in time for a European Union summit next month.

Hollande jetted to Berlin only hours after being sworn in to meet Merkel for the first time, arriving over an hour late after his plane was hit by lightning and he was forced to return briefly to Paris. The aircraft returned to the Villacoublay Air Base outside Paris and Hollande continued to Berlin on another plane.
“We’re very glad that he came to us in Germany on the day of his inauguration, and we’re even more glad that he did so although lightning struck [his plane],” Merkel said as she opened the press conference.

‘We are aware of our responsibility’

“Perhaps this is a good omen for our cooperation.” The meeting was being watched closely for signs the leaders of Europe’s biggest economies would be able to move beyond a war of words over how to resolve the debt crisis that now threatens to tear apart the 13-year-old currency bloc. “We are aware of our responsibility, as Germany and France, for a good development in Europe,” Merkel told reporters at a joint news conference with Hollande in the German capital. “Carried by this spirit, I believe we will of course find solutions for the different problems.” Hollande said he wants to work with Germany “for the good of Europe” and that he envisions “a balanced and respectful relationship,” adding that he was prepared to put “everything on the table” at the upcoming summit. They said the goal was to present joint proposals at an EU summit in late June. Instead of reopening Merkel’s “fiscal compact,” they are expected to complement it with a new “growth pact.”

Common stance on Greece

Hollande sharply criticized Merkel during his election campaign for insisting on tough austerity to bring down suffocating debt levels across the eurozone. “I said it during my election campaign and I say it again now as president that I want to renegotiate what has been agreed to include a growth dimension,” Hollande said. Both Merkel and Hollande said they wanted to keep Greece in the group of nations using the euro currency and that they wanted to help produce growth in Greece, but that existing agreements had to be maintained. “I hope that the Greeks can express in these elections their attachment to the eurozone,” Hollande said. Merkel was blunter about the significance of the election.

“We have to respect the fact that there are new elections in Greece,” she said. “We will make clear that we have the wish that Greece can stay in the eurozone, that its citizens will vote on that, and that part of this is that the agreements of the memorandum (with creditors) must be kept to.” After the news conference, the two leaders dined on lamb schnitzel and asparagus on the eighth floor of the Chancellery, overlooking the Tiergarten Park and the Reichstag Parliament building. Aides said they had a broad conversation on topics ranging from economic and foreign policy to bilateral issues.

Compiled from Reuters, AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.